Thailand is an easy destination to overdo. Hitting all the typical tourists stops and activities can result in a trip that feels a little too much like an internet guidebook’s approximation of Eat, Pray, Love. If you’re hoping for something more unique and adventurous though, you can certainly design sign an experience in Thailand! You just have to do a little more planning. To that end, here are our suggestions for some fun things to do in Thailand beyond the typical highlights.
1. Try Alternative Activities in Bangkok
No trip to Thailand is complete without visiting the capital city, so in some sense this could be its own article. But if you’re looking for an off-beat adventure, try exploring some alternatives to traditional sightseeing and activity options. Instead of transportation via tuk tuk for example (the buggy-like open-air cabs popular in the city), try a ride in a longboat along the river. Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River affords plenty of great sightseeing and photography opportunities, including views of the majestic Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn, lit up at night.
You can go beyond the commonly recommended sights as well. For example, after you take in the obligatory Grand Palace (and giant reclining Buddha across the street), seek out an alternative temple: the Wat Samphran, about 40 kilometers to the west of the city. It’s a tower encased in a dragon sculpture, and you can climb up inside the dragon for a great view from the 17th story.
2. Shop for Unusual Goods & Souvenirs
Whether you’re exploring the offerings at the Maeklong Railway Market, wandering the night bazaar at Chiang Mai, or exploring Bankok’s red light district, Patpong, try shopping for some goods beyond the same old souvenirs. Rather than the usual silk scarves, for instance, opt for another, less cliché version of the traditional export product in the form of some silk harem pants. Instead of loading up your pockets with spices you may never use (and may not be able to bring home easily), try the local spices in the form of local snacks like fried locusts or other spice-infused bug snacks!
If you do shop for tchotchkes, traditional or otherwise, be sure to tap into your bargaining skills. The street vendors expect some haggling, and they set initial prices high to account for that.
3. Eat at The Giant
You may have read previous recommendations here for what to eat in Thailand, and we stand by those recommendations. But it’s always fun to find a great restaurant that’s farther off the beaten path, which brings us to The Giant. A treetop restaurant located some 50 kilometers from Chiang Mai, it allows you to eat like the Swiss Family Robinson, and then take a zip line to a nearby platform. The food is delicious, and the spot is near the Mae Kampong Waterfall, meaning your meal out can double as an excellent sightseeing opportunity. Just remember to make reservations ahead of time – The Giant may not always make the international travel guide “best of” lists, but it’s still fairly popular.
4. See The Thailand National Football Team
A lot of travel guides to Thailand identify Muay Thai as the main national sport, and it’s certainly uniquely popular there. However, football is huge also, and getting more so. Particularly as modern streaming and online sports coverage have improved, lots of Thais have grown more attached to football by watching the top leagues around the world. Some have also learned how to bet online, studying the strategies and available methods that enable them to responsibly enjoy having a more personal stake in outcomes.
Suffice it to say by this point the country loves its football. And while that often means Thais are closely attached to popular clubs in Europe, it should also be pointed out that the Thailand national football team is quite competitive these days, and – naturally – drawing a lot of local support. Seeing this team live alongside adoring fans would be a treat for any traveler.
5. Koh Phangan
Thailand’s fifth-biggest island is famous for its full moon party, and while most tourists don’t make it off the mainland, participating in the ancient ritual can be a perfect end to your unique trip. With the party following the lunar schedule, you’ll want to line up your trip to coincide with the full moon if you want to participate in the full party (complete with fire breathers, people in neon paint, and raucous beach celebrations).
Then again, if that sort of beach party isn’t your thing or you’d rather steer clear of crowds altogether, you can also head to Koh Phangan during other parts of the month. There will be fewer people, and you can enjoy a more peaceful environment, taking cooking classes or trying gentle watersports by day and enjoying sunsets from the beach at night.